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6 Childhood Memories I Now Connect to Social Anxiety

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I wasn’t formally diagnosed with any type of anxiety until I was 15. Growing up, being around people always made me nervous, I was awkward in social situations and I dreaded being the center of attention. My parents tried to push me and didn’t understand what was going on with me. No one ever told me I had anxiety, so I always just assumed that there was something wrong with me. It became more and more obvious to me throughout middle and high school, and I was finally diagnosed with social anxiety, and later, panic disorder. Looking back at my childhood, it makes so much sense. Not to say I had a bad childhood at all, but there were definitely things I can look back on now and see that it was so clearly anxiety at play.

1. The time I ate a cupcake wrapper.

I remember I was at a birthday party at a bowling alley when I was really young. I had to have a different type of cupcake because I was allergic to dairy. So, I ate my soy cupcake away from the other kids, but the trash can was near all of them and I was standing far away. I was too embarrassed and too scared to walk over to the trash can, so I literally ate the wrapper of the cupcake so I wouldn’t have to walk in front of people to throw it away. I realize now that was 100 percent social anxiety.

2. The times I didn’t want to meet family.

Even as a really young kid, being around people I was completely comfortable with freaked me out. I remember driving to New York and Chicago to see family and borderline crying when we got there because that meant I had to get out and try to interact with people I didn’t know how to.

3. The times I felt less alone because of music.

Even though I didn’t understand or have a word for my anxiety growing up, I always felt connected to songs that talked about it, even without directly saying it. I remember belting out “This Is Me” from Camp Rock and Hannah Montana’s “The Other Side of Me” in my room as a kid, and just feeling a little less alone. To this day, music has been my saving grace when I haven’t been able to find the words for what I’m feeling.

4. The times I was nervous my parents were watching me.

I never understood why having my parents watch me do anything made me so nervous. My heart would race as I knew they were looking at me and I would clench my fists and try my best to avoid eye contact. I played soccer for almost 10 years growing up, normally as right or left midfielder. But once we switched sides after halftime, I used to beg my coach to let me switch from left to right or right to left so I wouldn’t have to be on the same side of my parents.

5. The times I pretended to be sick so I could skip piano recital.

My brothers and I were all forced to take piano lessons as kids. Now, I loved playing, and I still do to this day. I’m extremely thankful I learned as young as I did. But, I despised the recitals and did everything I possibly could so I wouldn’t have to go. While I didn’t have a name for it yet, my anxiety attacked so hard the weeks leading up to those.

6. The times I was scared to talk in groups.

I was really involved in church growing up, and our youth groups often had small groups where we would share personal experiences and have the opportunity to reflect. I hated questions that everyone had to go around and answer. I hated that I couldn’t bring myself to share when I actually had something to say. I hated that my hands would sweat and shake as the car pulled up to the church because I was so nervous. I hated that I was anxious, but I hated not knowing what it was even more.

Photo by pan xiaozhen on Unsplash

Originally published: February 19, 2019
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